Leeds has over 3,660 ha of woodland, a little under 1,300 ha of which is owned and managed by Leeds City Council and is free for you to enjoy throughout the year. Of this, 20% is Ancient Semi-natural Woodland, which means that it has remained wooded since at least 1600 AD. The largest piece of ancient woodland in Leeds (as well as being one of the largest in West Yorkshire) is Middleton Woods in south Leeds. Other notable Council owned wooded sites includes Chevin Forest Park in the north of the district, Meanwood Wood and Woodhouse Ridge in the Meanwood Valley and the estates such as Temple Newsam, Roundhay Park and Lotherton Hall.
The Forest of Leeds, which was created in 1993, is a Leeds City Council initiative which embraces all the woodlands under Council control and manages them for both people and wildlife. The initiative has a clear vision:
- To built a pleasant environment where people can work and play.
- To manage existing woodland as a sustainable multi purpose resource to help the city adapt to climate change.
- To increase woodland and tree cover.
- To transform derelict land into an attractive and valued landscape.
- To encourage sustainable development and help to create a new prosperity.
- To increase structural diversity within restricted age class woodlands and plantations.
- To increase biodiversity across all woodlands (“natural” woodland types).
The Forest of Leeds, managed by Parks & Countryside’s Natural Environment team, is certified under the United Kingdom Woodland Assurance Standard (UKWAS). UKWAS is an independent, internationally recognised standard which verifies that woodland management meets the highest levels of sustainability.